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Aerospace engineering student earns national fellowship

Kayla WatsonKayla WatsonFourth-year aerospace engineering student Kayla Watson became interested in aerospace engineering during an eighth-grade science class. Now, she’s just been named a Brooke Owens Fellow.

The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program, founded in 2016, awards internships and senior mentorship to exceptional undergraduate women seeking careers in aviation or space exploration. As a 2018 fellow, Watson—along with another Ohio State student, Anna Voelker—completed a rigorous and highly competitive application and multi-phase interview process. Fellows are placed into a paid summer internship at one of the nation’s leading aviation or space companies.

Watson first heard of the program through a professor and staff members at the university. They recognized the strength of her resume and her strong interest in aerospace and aviation. The fellowship is described as selecting women who have an innovative spirit and capabilities in aerospace.

“As a student at Ohio State, my passion for aerospace reaches beyond the classroom,” said Watson, who is also taking classes for a minor in aviation.

Currently she is a member of Ohio State’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, which is working on miniaturized satellites for space research that will hitch a ride on the university’s Buckeye Space Launch Initiative rockets. Additionally, she is a student researcher for the Battelle Center for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, where she helps develop commercial space public policy. She also serves as president of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals at Ohio State, which is preparing a proposal for a low-end unmanned aerial vehicle testing facility for the State of Ohio.

Kayla Watson is involved in numerous student groupsKayla Watson is involved in numerous student groupsIt was with this robust resume and her passion for all-things aerospace that Watson embarked upon the highly competitive interview process for the fellowship. She enjoyed that she “was able to speak on a level that was deeper than just technical skills and behavioral questions” during the process, and was enthusiastic that her phone interview was with Lori Garver, deputy administrator of NASA.

Since joining the ranks of the 2018 Brooke Owens Fellows, Watson has learned that she will be interning this summer with Amazon Prime Air. “I hope to gain a lot of career advice and be able to grow more as a person during the internship,” she said.

And just what does this aspiring engineer plan to do with her aerospace degree after graduation? “I hope to either work on new technology in the aeronautics field,” Watson said, “…or work for a commercial space company.”

Her energy is tempered with sincere gratitude, and reliance on her strong faith. Among the many at Ohio State that she ascribes with continued support for her mission are the College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion, the Battelle Center for Science, Engineering and Public Policy and several faculty members in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“Without the support and encouragement of those abovementioned, I surely would not have made it this far,” she said. “It is truly an honor to be a Brooke Owens Fellow and these people make me proud to represent them and their respective departments.”

by Holly Henley, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Communications,